Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Legality < Margin

Hey everyone - I worked a brutal week last week, so I didn't have the time I thought I would to write.  I'm back, to the best of my ability.

We had a recent mini-controversy about the "areener" referendum, as some suddenly questioned whether holding the referendum was legal.  I find this pretty amusing on first blush, for 2 reasons.  First of all, as my last Underpants Gnomes themed post says, there are no details of the referendum, and the text hasn't yet been written by the clerk of the legislature.  It makes no sense to say that something which doesn't even exist yet could be illegal.  I'll defer to Legis. Denenberg on this one: the referendum vote is to determine whether or not to create a tax line to be used for paying the debt service, and it's still valid even if the bonding then fails.  Nothing to see here, folks....though I do find it interesting that Desmond Ryan, head of the hilariously named Association for a Better Long Island, is again in the middle of this.  After playing nice-nice with Chris Botta, he's then turned around and blasted these plans up and down....and nobody mentions that he is affiliated with major developers who would want the rights to the land themselves!  As a consulting client I've worked for says, that's not a believable source.  Reserve judgment until the details come, and they should be due any time.

However, when you consider the referendum, there is something much more important that we need to consider: turnout is key.

We've mentioned before that the referendum is not the be-all and end-all of whether or not a new arena is built.  There are still 2 steps after: the county legislature has to approve the bond issue with a supermajority, and NIFA needs to provide final sign-off on the bonding.

I've already mentioned that the details are important, the numbers must work, and there are politics at play as to whether Democrats would give Ed Mangano his super-majority in light of the serious questions raised 2 weeks ago.

Some say the bonding is a slam dunk if the referendum passes.

Not so fast.

Turnout on non-election days is notorious for being pathetically low on Long Island.  How many people do you know that vote for the school budgets that are stashed during the week in May or June every year?  In the same vein, turnout for the primary elections is usually very low, and some believe the referendum was scheduled on August 1 for a similar reason.

If the referendum passes, but turnout is below 10,000, could that really be seen as the "will of the people?"

If the referendum passes with less than 60% of the vote in favor, can this be considered a slam dunk?  Will NIFA have to accept it?

Not at all.

The truth remains: if people truly want this to pass, they need to drum up turnout and make this pass overwhelmingly.  This is the only thing that can't be explained away or rationalized.  That is the only thing those with final authority will listen to.

(Blogger's Note: This is a new idea - smaller posts to keep the flow going in between larger pieces, which is reflective of my reduced levels of free time.  Please let me know what you think)



  1. As long as the referendum passes above at least 60% it should be good. I don't think people after the fact can complain about low turnout. When was the last time a special election or a primary election had it's results ignored because of low turnouts?

    It's thin ice for politicians, they can't suddenly be against low turnout in an election when some of them have gotten where they are because of low turnouts.

    The only thing that amazes me right now are the few comments here and there from people that consist of "why doesn't Wang build it with his own money?"

  2. "If the referendum passes, but turnout is below 10,000, could that really be seen as the "will of the people?"

    Nick, what kind of numbers do you think it WILL take for people to consider this legit?

    I'll be there and voting YES on August 1st bringing as many Nassau residents as I can with me. Here's hoping ever Isles fan in Nassau does the same.

    And just for the record, I DO want to see Wang and Manganos details, but regardless, it will not stop me from voting YES to keeping our hockey team in Nassau.

    -Big Van Vader

  3. 1. Agreed regarding turnout and margin of victory. I'm more optimistic regarding a very lopsided vote than high turnout. There certainly are over 10K highly motivated Isles fans and union guys and business owners directly affected by the vote but probably not much more. Getting 90% turnout from that group will be key.

    2. I don't believe that the referendum text is an issue. Under the County charter all the referendum can do is enact the Local Law No. 4-2011 -- the bill passed by the legislature on May 31 -- no more and no less. Accordingly, the text of the referendum is not a secret: it will simply describe the bill in plain English and ask the voters if it should become law. The legality of the referendum hinges on what the bill itself says. As I posted at LHH, the legality question is a non-issue and it would be utter hypocrisy for any Dem legislator to vote against the bonding on this basis as Dems have time and time again structured bonding referenda is the exact same way. The fact that no one has moved for an injunction against the vote yet speaks volumes.

    3. What is troubling is how Mangano let what should be a non-story become a story. This doesn't bode well for the continued progress of the arena plan from a PR perspective.

  4. "If the referendum passes, but turnout is below 10,000, could that really be seen as the "will of the people?"

    If the referendum passes with less than 60% of the vote in favor, can this be considered a slam dunk? Will NIFA have to accept it?"

    If those kinds of proportions are good enough to elect the president of the United States (and they are) then why wouldnt they be good enough here?

    Low voter turnout needs to be an assumption... I guarantee it. As sad as it is, people generally do not vote.